About Knife Handles

About Knife Handles-History & Development

In ancient times, early humans used nature created objects as tools. During the later years of the Stone Age, humans created tools for specific purposes. For instance, archaeologists have discovered Stone Age knives that early humans made from flint, obsidian or quarts. The first knives had a handle and a blade, but they were one solid piece. Throughout history, pocketknife handles have been formed from different materials.

Archaeologists located an early pocketknife at Hallstatt, which was a Celtic village. The ancient pocketknife featured a bone handle, and researchers were able to date the tool to around 600 or 500 BC. Hallstatt gained fame as it was the location of the world's oldest known salt mine. In fact, researchers were able to date the salt mine back to a time before people began recording their past. Historians believe that the Hallstatt knife was most likely used by the mine's workers for everyday tasks.

Researchers have also discovered ancient knives from Rome. When Roman artisans crafted knives for the city's warriors, they added intricate designs to the handles. The designs displayed triumphant gladiators and gory combat scenes. In addition to bone, early knife handles were also made from common materials like metal and wood as well as exotic substances such as mother of pearl, tortoiseshell and stag horn.

Military Knives

During the 19th century, knife manufacturers constructed military knives for soldiers and navy personnel. The knife style featured sheepfoot blades, and according to reports, manufacturers rounded off the blade to prevent arguments from becoming too vicious. The handles were made from horn. Later, developers constructed the handle from plastic and added a diamond pattern overlay to prevent a user's hands from slipping on the handle.

Winterbottom Bone Handles

Winterbottom bone is a durable and distinctively styled substance that is used to make knife handles. Samuel Winterbottom was the first bone cutter to produce and design the substance. Therefore, it was named after him. During 1885, Samuel Winterbottom immigrated to the United States. He was born in England, and he learned the bone cutting trade from his father. At the start of his career, he developed knife handles for all knife types. Knife collectors are usually familiar with the handle style as it features unique cuts made with a jig. The substance's coloring is another distinguishing characteristic of the handle material.

In 1891, Mr. Winterbottom started his own business. He made knife handles, manicure sets and handles for table cutlery. During the 1960s, the price of bone product increased, which caused knives made with Winterbottom bone to become more expensive. Also, the government started restricting the import of bone, and as a result, cutlery producers began making knife handles from synthetic substances. The combined circumstances caused the company to sell out to one of its clients. Collectors can purchase antique pocketknives featuring Winterbottom handles from the '30s, '40s and '50s. In addition, new knives made with the handle material are available.

Handle Material Details

Bone is one of the most common materials used to make pocketknife handles. In addition, knife manufacturers use the substance for different models and brands. The bone used for the tool is removed from animals that have already died. The material is ideal for knife handles because it is strong, forms into a handle easily and durable. Crafters can also dye bone, which increases its versatility. Knife artisans use bone from deer, giraffes and other animals. To create a pattern on a bone knife handle, artisans use a jigging machine and cut out bone fragments. During the machine's operation, it shifts back and forth in a rocking motion.

Wood is another common substance that knife manufacturers use to make knife handles. To create beautiful handles, artisans use softwood. However, the style is best for light use because heavy-duty tasks or water may cause damage to the handle. Knife producers frequently use a wood stabilizing process to create a more durable handle. When manufacturers use the method, they add plastic resin to the wood, which makes it stronger and waterproof. Knives that feature a stabilized wood handle can be used for hunting and outdoor use. Hardwood is another popular knife handle material. The substance is strong, and when knife producers treat the wood, it is resistant to water. Collectors may consider purchasing pocketknives that have handles made from exotic or unique wood as well as burl, but the knife types are generally decorative.

Manufacturers may produce knife handles from aluminum since the material is strong and lightweight. Knife handles made from aluminum are typically utilitarian and are unlikely to feature the artistic appeal and charm of bone or wood handles. Most people buy knives with aluminum handles for work purposes. In addition, the handle is comfortable for users to grip. Often, knife producers anodize aluminum handles to add color. The finishing process also protects the handle.

G10 is a specially made substance that knife manufacturers use to construct tactical and survival knife handles. Producers make the product from fiberglass. The substance becomes even more durable after the developer soaks it in resin, condenses it and allows the material to harden through a baking process. The production method provides tactical and survival knife makers with a handle material that is lightweight and strong. Manufacturers add checkering and cross hatch patterns to give the handle added texture.

Knife handles constructed from stainless steel are strong and weatherproof. Often, when knife producers make a handle from stainless steel, they add rubber to give the user more handle grip. Before a knife consumer purchases one, he or she should hold it as the style is generally heavier than other types of knives.

Abalone is a material that knife manufacturers use to make the handles of high-end knives. The substance comes from a mollusk shell. Therefore, it is a natural material. Abalone is harvested off the coast of Mexico, California and the South Pacific. Abalone handles are attractive, but the material is less durable than other substances used to make knife handles.


Knife handles are made from useful substances and decorative materials. Furthermore, collectors can purchase antique knives that feature handles constructed from rare materials as well as classic tools that have common elements.